Posted tagged ‘Carson City’

In Praise of Lobbyists. Sort of.

July 23, 2007

Originally Published on, 7/23/2007 2:57:06 PM

Something is peculiar when lobbyists make predictions about a coming crisis, wherein Nevada citizens will have to, uh — trust lobbyists.

But this is what some of them are saying, as the bell tolls for Nevada’s most senior state legislators, a large and powerful group now facing term limits. The rap goes like this. When the long-timers are termed out, senior lobbyists will be the most experienced people in Carson City. The new, younger legislative leadership will be bullied by the lobbyists. Nevada will, in effect, be governed by the Dreaded Special Interests. This, according to the Dreaded Special Interests.

While the American public certainly views lobbyists with considerable suspicion, everything that can be done to purify the lobbying process has been done. Lobbyists register with the Legislative Counsel Bureau. We know who they work for. We know how much money they contribute, and to whom. We can read their testimony on every single bill, because every word is public record. The lobbyist’s mission is more-or-less clear, until he disappears behind closed doors with legislators. That’s when we lose track of the action.

The Reasonable Reporter is baffled by knee-jerk distrust of lobbyists, and more baffled still when it’s the lobbyists who suggest that lobbyists are not to be trusted.

Lobbyists have traditionally positioned themselves as expert resources for a part-time legislature. And they are experts. Lobbyists testify, and legislative committee members ask questions. If the legislators were the experts, it would presumably be the other way around.

That’s not to denigrate the elected ones, many of whom are damn smart, and also in possession of certain expertise. But citizen legislators would have to be gods to fully understand the wide range of issues on which they are able to affect lives, transactions and property. Who knows more, for instance, about the effect on civil liberties from DNA collection, a realtor, a rancher, a teacher, a waitress, or the ACLU? Same can be said about business issues. There might be a handful of lawmakers who are steeped in the particulars of insurance, banking, energy or any other business they regulate. The rest learn about those issues from lobbyists.

Lobbyists, of course, are the voice of the Dreaded Special Interests. You know, businesspeople, teachers, cops, church members. Those Dreaded Special Interests who live in the state, pay taxes, and who are busy working for a living from February until June, with no time to hang out in Carson City hallways while the the laws they will have to abide by are passed.

Given the importance of their function, it’s disconcerting to hear lobbyists warn that some day soon we’ll be at the mercy of – Holy Builders Association, Batman! – lobbyists.

The other thing lobbyists do is strategize. They devise endlessly odd and imaginative methods and alliances in the service of mutually desirable outcomes. Could a whispering campaign against themselves be such an invention? A wonderfully unexpected way to take the focus off the other parties in the closed door discussions? The Reasonable Reporter is suitably teased, and looks forward with great interest to the next phase.